Every time to you eat, your body releases a hormone from your pancreas called insulin. We have all heard of insulin before. It is the hormone that Type 1 diabetics must inject into themselves to avoid the detrimental effects of hyperglycemia (one of them being death).
The function of insulin is to maintain homeostasis (balance) of the glucose in your blood. It does this by taking the excess glucose and storing it in your liver and muscles. This process is very good for us. But in situations where insulin resistance is present, that act of removing glucose form the blood is blocked.
What is Insulin Resistance (IR)?
In a nutshell, IR is when your body doesn’t respond as strongly, or at all, to the circulating insulin in your blood. This is bad, because when blood glucose levels rise, your pancreas continues to release insulin since your cells think they are unable to get any fuel. A long, sustained release of insulin is very inflammatory, causing a number of other things to happen (read my articles on cortisol and thyroid).
One of the most detrimental side effects is the reduced ability to use fat as fuel. In a study published in Nutrition and Metabolism, researchers found that regardless of changes in diet, participants that were insulin resistant were unable to use fat to create energy effectively. Even when the participants with IR ate more dietary fat, they still used fat as fuel below normal levels.
What You Can Do to Prevent or Reverse IR
These guidelines are going to seem very simple, but they are worth stating again.
Lift Weights - resistance training has been shown to reduce IR, One study found that IR was reduces by as much as 25% following a dynamic resistance training session.
Low Moderate Intensity Cardio - avoid high intensity cardio due to its demand for glycogen for energy and instead focus on low to moderate intensity cardio exercise.
Reduce Processed and Simple Carbs - there is no nutritional value in these and they only serve to worsen the effects of IR.
Start Adding Healthy Fats - Coconut Oil, MCTs, and Omega 3 Fish Oil can dramatically increase your use for fat as a fuel source and start to reverse the effects of IR.
IR can create a very frustrating environment especially if weight loss is a goal. Focus on the basics of good nutrition and exercise and you will start to see results for your hard work.